chapter  5
India and Bangladesh
Pages 25

Bangladesh is the youngest country in the South Asian region, having gained its independence in 1971. India supported the country’s liberation struggle culminating in the separation of East and West Pakistan. India and Bangladesh share deep historical, cultural and linguistic bonds. India looms large in the domestic and foreign affairs of Bangladesh. The two countries have not always enjoyed the best of relationships. In recent times, there has been some improvement in bilateral relations, but it remains to be seen whether the momentum can be sustained. Ties between the two countries have always been subject to Bangladeshi domestic politics. A section of the national elites have fostered an “anti-India” mindset among the people in pursuit of their own political objectives. At the same time, they have painted “pro-India” forces in Bangladesh as unpatriotic. Both civilian as well as military governments in Bangladesh have indulged in such actions in order to deflect domestic pressures regarding lack of economic development and poor governance. At the same time, successive Indian governments have been insensitive to the insecurities prevalent among the Bangladeshi establishment and masses regarding its own aspirations, intentions and actions. Together, this has hampered the development of cordial and mutually productive ties between the two countries. Bangladesh is one of the poorest countries in the world and heavily dependent on international developmental assistance. Since the time of its independence, Bangladesh has looked to the outside world to support it in its endeavor to build a viable state. It has maintained an active international profile, by contributing heavily to UN peacekeeping operations and being involved in discussions on the effects of climate change. Bangladesh enjoys good relations with almost all countries of the world. Outside South Asia, Bangladesh has extensive ties with the US, Japan and China and the Islamic countries. After 9/11 Bangladesh became an integral part of the security calculus of the US with respect to South Asia. The bilateral relationship has strengthened in recent times. Friendly relations with a moderate Islamic country also serve to bolster the image of the US in parts of the Muslim world. Both the US and India share the desire to see Bangladesh develop into a stable and prosperous country.